On the pragmatics of subjectification: The grammaticalization of verbless allative futures (with a case study in Ancient Egyptian)

Eitan Grossman*, Stéphane Polis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In this paper, we argue that an expanded conception of the distinction between speaker-oriented and subject-oriented inferences is crucial for understanding the motivations and mechanisms of semantic change in grammaticalization and subjectification, on the one hand, and for clarifying the links between semantic change and reductive formal changes, on the other. Speaker-oriented inferences have significant consequences, leading to the relaxation of selectional restrictions on a construction. In turn, the relaxation of selectional restrictions can create conditions in which the type and token frequency of a construction can rise considerably. Furthermore, changes in the selectional restrictions on a construction can themselves catalyze semantic change by coercing listeners into new form-function pairings. This framework is applied to allative futures, a typological comparative concept developed in order to compare structurally diverse future tenses. Following the typological discussion, a diachronic case study of the emergence and grammaticalization of a verbless allative future in Ancient Egyptian is presented. Such verbless allative futures provide evidence against assumptions that purpose constructions as such are not grammaticalized as future tense constructions (Schmidtke-Bode 2009). Rather, they corroborate earlier hypotheses that it is the allative component of source constructions that crucially leads to intention meanings, and from intention to prediction (see, e.g., Bybee, Pagliuca, and Perkins 1994).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)25-63
Number of pages39
JournalActa Linguistica Hafniensia
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2014

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© 2014 © 2014 The Linguistic Circle of Copenhagen.


  • future tenses
  • grammaticalization
  • pragmatic and semantic change
  • subjectification


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